Hill Council Gripes

Several quarters in the Jammu region have opposed the creation of new administrative units in the state. According to them, the National Conference is trying to create a Chenab Valley Autonomous Hill Development Council and a Pir Panjal Council in the garb of the new units. They further believe that the move is aimed at changing the demographic complexion of the region. The demand for autonomous councils for the Chenab and the Pir Panjal valleys is not communally-motivated. If at all these councils are created, the entire population, and not just a particular community, will benefit. And under no circumstances should it be construed as an attempt to divide the Jammu region.

The Amarnath land row has created a wide gulp between the state’s two regions. Further polarization cannot, and should not, be allowed. But the demand for a hill council should not be resisted on the basis of unfounded apprehensions in some quarters. The government has already conferred hill council status on some regions, one of them known for its communal tendencies. Communal forces in that area have boycotted a particular community twice in the recent past. This notwithstanding, the Government of India and the State Government went ahead with the plan and the area got its autonomous council. Nobody had the scantiest concern for the interests of the other communities living there. In contrast, communally-coloured boycotts and ostracism have never taken place in the Chenab Valley and the Pir Panjal region – the riots in August last year being an exception.

The demand for hill councils for the Chenab and the Pir Panjal valleys hits hard at the very concept of a Jammu Pradesh. The demand for a separate state for the Jammu region is being projected by a `street politician’ and a self-styled columnist from Jammu who at times changes his gender to mislead the gullible people of the region. The state has to remain a single unit notwithstanding the machinations of these unscrupulous elements, and the demand for hill councils will in no way compromise the unity and integrity of Jammu and Kashmir.

On the contrary, the hill councils would be better placed to ensure good governance and equitable development of the region. Elements opposing them are enemies of the state, and have been instrumental in delaying the Mughal Road Project. Work on the project had started in 1981 during the times of the Sher-e-Kashmir, but elements of the same ilk have been opposing it right from the very beginning to safeguard their self-serving definition of the interests of the Jammu region.

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